In most seasons, seeing the team that is sitting dead last in the Serie A table would be a welcome sight for a lot of us here. It’s what you want to see. It’s going to bring a smile to your face — especially when you see that said team sitting dead last in the table is allowing over two goals a game and has only won once in nearly two months.
But this is the Juventus season where logic and reason is thrown out the door.
And it’s a Juventus season where they’ve already dropped points against said team sitting at the bottom of the Serie A table.
So, after two pretty dejecting losses that have been filled with frustration and “What if” moments, Juventus enters this meeting on Monday night against the worst team currently going in Serie A, Crotone, in desperate need of some good things going their way. In “normal” times, that would be great news and we might be sitting here expecting Juventus to rotate the squad and then subsequently still run away from a Crotone-like squad on their way to another three points. But in these times, Juventus has already dropped points against Crotone once and enter this game with what feels like an entire starting lineup worth of players out due to injury or suspension.
But let’s just go ahead and recite a line from my post-game thread the last time Juventus played Crotone, shall we?
We knew that Juventus had a lot to improve on coming out of the draw with Roma. And missing some of your best players was never going to help Pirlo this next week or two. But Juventus didn’t look all that much better against an opponent that is a couple of steps below where Roma is.
At that time, we could play the card of “It’s early, there’s plenty of time for things to turn in Juve’s favor, it’s only a couple of games into the season so don’t overreact.” We could preach patience and it totally made sense. When Juventus played out a 1-1 draw to Crotone earlier this season, it was five days before my birthday in October. It was the third-ever league game that Andrea Pirlo had coached. We knew things would take time to click just because things were so new and they were all of about two months into Pirlo being on the job.
But now, as we get ready for March to arrive in less than a week, time is not Juventus’ friend. Or maybe not even anything close to it.
With Inter’s win in the Milan derby on Sunday, Juventus enters the game against Crotone 11 points off the Serie A lead. That means, if there is the same kind of outcome against Crotone on Monday as there was on Oct. 17, then Juve’s going into their final game of February trailing by double digits AND on the brink of dropping out of the top six.
That’s not exactly what we drew up when we preached patience, but here we are. This is the situation that Juventus find themselves in, and one they have to attempt to work their way out of as crunch time on the schedule arrives.
Juventus’ opponents Monday night are not good. They’re the only Serie A club to allow over 50 goals this season. They have three wins all season, which is less than what Juve has recorded in 2021 alone. They were expected to be a relegation battler the first time Juventus season, and now they are most definitely a relegation battler, looking more and more like Serie B is in their future unless something quickly changes in their favor.
Most of the time, you’d want Juventus to take out their frustration against a team in that kind of situation.
But with the situation Juventus finds themselves, any more dropped points might as well officially declare that the Scudetto chase is over. It doesn’t matter about the game in hand or the fact they still have games against everybody in front of them not named Roma. Dropping points against Crotone for a second time this season would just be another sign that this season just isn’t meant to be and that somebody other than Juventus will be celebrating the Serie A title come the end of May.
If Juventus want to even have a chance, though, then the turnaround will have to start now. Or, at least a return to winning. Compared to the last couple of games, that would be a change for the better at the very least.
- Paulo Dybala still isn’t ready to play, according to Pirlo. (Editor’s note: This sucks.)
- Arthur is out due to injury.
- Leonardo Bonucci is out due to injury.
- Giorgio Chiellini is out due to injury.
- Juan Cuadrado is out due to injury.
- Pirlo said both Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski haven’t been feeling well lately — the former is a case we already knew about — but are improving.
- And just to complete the current lack of options available to Pirlo, Adrien Rabiot is serving a one-game suspension after picking up a yellow card against Napoli.
- Weston McKennie “has some problems, but he’s gritting his teeth as we are short on numbers,” according to Pirlo.
- Rodrigo Bentancur has also been dealing with slight injury this past week, but will be available to play against Crotone, according to Pirlo.
- Pirlo said Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal against Crotone.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Your attack isn’t clicking anywhere close to what it could be doing. You’re facing the worst defense in the league. And you’re basically down to two players who could actually start up front, with one of them being a youngster who is struggling to get going again after an impressive start to the 2020-21 season.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
Come on down, Big Red.
We’ve written a lot about young Dejan lately. And, because of the fact that Morata and Dybala have both been out with their respective health issues in recent weeks, Kulusevski’s experimentation as a striker has become much more of a regular thing than probably even Andrea Pirlo anticipated when the new year started.
Call it a coincidence or just sheer dumb luck, but both Morata and Kulusevski scored their last Serie A goal last December against Parma, the latter’s former team. There’s been a couple of Coppa Italia goals mixed in — just like Morata — but other than that things have been relatively quiet. And while Morata has been contributing to things even when he hasn’t scoring — just look at his assist numbers the last couple of weeks before he came down with the sickness — the same can’t be said for Kulusevski. It’s been a struggle, and there’s no other way around it.
With so many injuries and the uncertainty as to when Morata will be up for playing anywhere close to a full game or even Dybala being available, the onus really is on Kulusevski to be some kind of compliment to Cristiano Ronaldo up top. He’s obviously a much different kind of player than Morata when he’s being played as a striker as compared to being in a much more natural winger position, but Juventus can’t afford to go into March still basically relying on one consistent goal scorer. That’s just not a recipe for any kind of consistent success no matter who’s healthy.
I get the feeling that once he gets a goal or two and finally sees something go in the net then he will start to being the player we saw earlier in the season. He just has to get there first, and then hope that Kulu trying to cook opposing defenders comes shortly thereafter.
When: Monday, Feb. 22, 2021
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 251, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); Sky Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.